France, Strasbourg, 24 January / corr Trend A.Maharramli / Lord Russel Johnston, the head of the PACE Ad Hoc Committee on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, answered questions by the Azerbaijani journalists
Question: What issues will be discussed during your forthcoming visit to Azerbaijan and Armenia?
During my visit to Baku I plan to meet with the President of Azerbaijan and the chairman of the Parliament, as well as hold meetings with leaders or representatives from political parties. The Azerbaijan-Armenian relations will be discussed in Baku and then in Armenia, where I will participate as an observer in the presidential elections. I want to discuss with President Aliyev and future President of Armenia the position of the Committee that I lead.
We do not deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict T is the OSCE Minsk group who tries to solve the conflict. Our task is to improve the relations between parliamentarians, especially to let them to hold negotiations to understand each other instead of accusing each-other. I want to make sure that the leaders of both countries consider our work useful
As you know, unfortunately, Edward O'Hara, a British MP from the Labor Party, postponed his visit to Baku which targeted study of the destruction of historical and religious monuments in the conflict zone, I want such events to repeat. Beyond all my recommendations the Committee, which I lead, decided to organize a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh. I am not against it.
Question: What steps could the Ad Hoc Committee take to contribute to mutual understanding of sides?
Answer: My near-term target is to organize a conference in Strasburg with the participation of 30 MPs from Armenia and Azerbaijan to set up talks on improvement of relations. It would be more expedient to select a neutral place for the event, like Strasbourg. I am visiting Baku on 8 February to discuss the organization of the event either in March or in April. Approximately we scheduled it for 18 April.
Question: Why you are against the establishment of a unified committee at the PACE on 'lingering conflicts'?
Answer: I think every conflict has different peculiarities. There is Committee on Armenia and Azerbaijan and we should be attentive to avoid any repetition. This is no a principle issue of political significance, but simply a milestone related to practice. I do not think the establishment of a new committee to be profitable.
Question: Your report on Kosovo problem solution supports independence for this region. Does not it cause perplexity with the consideration that you are the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Nagorno-Karabakh?
Answer: No. I said at the beginning that our Committee targets the improvement of relations between Azerbaijanis and Armenian in the platform of parliament, but not the Nagorno-Karabakh. We are keen to solve this conflict. I try not to express any opinion on Nagorno-Karabakh.